Before a crowd of more than 100, Dame Averil Cameron, a recently retired warden of Keble College at Oxford University, said Monday that history is not based solely on truth.
In her lecture, titled “Empire, Empires and the End of Antiquity,” Cameron brought history to life while touching on the sometimes biased nature of historical analysis.
Cameron focused on modern theories related to the end of the Roman empire and late antiquity and the disagreement over the analysis of the period and the way historians’ approaches affect the results of research.
“This matters, it matters enormously because the answer we give and the kind of answer we give influences the modern world,” she said.
She said history is not just about dates or facts. To be meaningful, she said it has to include evaluation and comparison.
Cameron, a leading historian of late antiquity and the Byzantine Empire, stressed the open interpretation of the fall of Rome in particular, which can be called a decline or merely a gradual change.
“Decline, if that’s what we want to call it, is a slippery concept,” she said.
She called late antiquity a difficult time of fragmentation and change characterized by great geopolitical shift.
“It was a time of changing identities, sometimes painfully so,” she said.